Is marriage better than singleness? As people grow older, is remaining single a sign of their immaturity? Even if we do not admit it out loud, many of us (if we are being honest) would answer “yes” to those two questions. But author and speaker Christopher Yuan would beg to differ.
“We shouldn’t think that marriage is what provides a person to be mature or whole,” said Yuan on a recent podcast with ChurchLeaders. He also noted, “I think we need to realize that we cannot view marriage as the ultimate expression of love…Marriage does not have a monopoly on love.”
In his interview, Yuan shared many valuable insights, such as his belief that there is no way the church can adequately address the issue of same-sex attraction if Christians continue to have an unbiblical view of singleness. And part of this unbiblical view is the ideas that marriage is better than singleness and that if people are older and not married, they must be immature (particularly if they are men).
What Is the Answer to Immaturity?
It is true that being married is a special type of relationship that takes great maturity. It is also true that many singles are immature and are avoiding marriage because they do not want to face that level of commitment. However, said Yuan, “The mistake that I often find pastors do is then they try to make these men to marry when they’re still spiritually immature.” But this is not an appropriate solution. “The answer is not that they get married,” he said. “The answer is first that they would be converted, second that they would actually become a man of God.”
This is extremely important to recognize. Otherwise, we will push immature people toward a situation that they are unequipped to handle. Yuan was careful to emphasize that he is not saying people need to be perfect in order to get married, just that marriage is not a solution for immaturity.
There is no better reminder for us of this truth than Jesus himself. “We have treated marriage as better than singleness,” said Yuan, “and yet we forget that our perfect Savior, Jesus, was single, and he was not an immature man, he was not trying to shed responsibility.”
The truth (that many Christian singles find hard to accept) is, “Singleness is actually good. Singleness in Christ is good, just as marriage in Christ is good as well.”
Also, marriage is not eternal. In the new heavens and new earth, marriage will be done away with. So when singleness is part of God’s eternal plan, we should not look down on it by agreeing with the world that “To ask someone to remain single is to relegate them to a life of loneliness.” This does not mean, of course, that singleness is easy. Single Christians will have to be intentional to pursue godly friendships, something Yuan elaborates on in his book, Holy Sexuality and the Gospel: Sex, Desire, and Relationships Shaped by God’s Grand Story.
The fact is that both marriage and singleness are good and both are hard. And it is not uncommon for singles and married people to struggle with loneliness at times.
Yet even though marriage is not an ultimate solution to loneliness, Yuan encouraged singles not to view their relationship status as indefinite (in this life anyway). If you are single, he said, that is what God has called you to today. If you are married, that is what God has called you to today. But none of us knows what God will do in our lives in the future. Said Yuan: “I don’t ever use the word ‘celibacy’…because it’s associated with a lifelong, chosen vocation, and I simply don’t find that in scripture…but singleness is, and I want to tell people, ‘Do not plan out your future.’ You’re called to be single today, but who knows what tomorrow may bring?”